Qdoba Launches New Campaign—United by Flavor

Photos by Ben Brown

Qdoba, the national fast-casual Mexican chain known for customized burritos, tacos, bowls and other favorites, has unveiled its new ‘United by Flavor’ campaign to celebrate “flavorful food, flavorful places and flavorful people.” The campaign builds on Qdoba’s approach to personalizing every dish to the guest, and welcoming “people of all flavor profiles” to walk in through its doors.

“We love giving our guests the freedom to try our food and create their own meals. In fact, we think that’s where the real magic happens, when people pair the most unlikely ingredients and make their own masterpieces,” said Jill Adams, vice president of marketing, Qdoba. “As great as our ingredients taste individually, they taste even better when the flavors are united together.”

Qdoba backs up this statement in full by charging nothing for guacamole, queso and other premium ingredients. Their ‘Our Good Guarantee’ also allows guests to try new and different flavor combinations risk-free—if you don’t like what you ordered, Qdoba will make you something different for free. 

The campaign also highlights Qdoba’s focus on fresh ingredients and maximizing in-house preparation. Everything from avocados to jalapenos are carefully sourced and stored. Staff slice vegetables and fire-grill steak and chicken on a daily basis. 

Qdoba is also remodeling several of its restaurants to better represent the flavor campaign, as well as delivering an expanded alcohol menu to a select few. Some Qdoba guests will be able to treat themselves to draft and bottled beer and margaritas. 

For more information, visit Qdoba.com.

Locali: Bringing a Healthy Touch to Fast Casual

Locali is a direct response to L.A.’s growing demand for quick, healthy dining. Meat is available on Locali’s broad menu, but ironically is more the exception than the norm given the restaurant’s dedication toward all things vegan, vegetarian, gluten-free and other iterations of hip-and-trendy restrictions. The franchise continues to grow, and offers an experience that appeals to both the health-conscious and the broader market.

Hot sandwiches, cold sandwiches, salads, quinoa bowls, toasts and an array of drinks and smoothies provide a plethora of options for guests to indulge without feeling quite as sinful. 

It’s the all-day breakfast, however, that takes center stage. The badass breakfast sandwich is the killer choice, served in decadent fashion with rich taste and consistency that would surprise just about any meat and cheese lover that it’s vegan. The brekkie burrito is another favorite and another big surprise, served piping hot with an excellent chipotle mayo.

For meat eaters that wouldn’t have it any other way, the Vernon delivers what you’re looking for in a buffalo chicken sandwich, albeit with a melted vegan cheddar that’s just as rich and bubbly as its traditional counterpart. The Reuben is another hot specialty made with zesty turkey. In all cases, the paninis come out with bread crisped to perfection.

If you’re going to smoothie, the warrior is a must. Made green through spirulina and maca, the warrior bears odd resemblance to a mint chocolate chip milkshake. Considering the nutritional benefits, the $11 price tag seems much more justifiable. 

Vegan and gluten-free desserts include fresh-baked cookies and whoopee pies. Locali also serves beer and wine, as well as a plethora of kombuchas and other health-oriented drinks and packaged goods. 

For more information, visit LocaliYours.com.

Pink’s: The Legendary Hot Dog Experience

Pink’s is to L.A. as Old Faithful is to Yellowstone, or more appropriately, as hot dogs are to baseball. Quintessential components so iconic that if removed, the larger body may be left unrecognizable. But it’s not just hot dogs that have led Pink’s to nearly 80 years of success and visits from nearly every A-list celebrity in the galaxy. The food is but one part of a simple, yet soulful experience that every Angelino, and non-Angelino, for that matter, must indulge in.

Pink’s has the privilege of membership in an elite circle reserved only for the finest of casual dining institutions, where customers see waiting in line as a badge of honor. Showing up to the humble restaurant without a slew of people standing between you and your decadent selection would be akin to entering a clear 10 freeway at 5 p.m. Treasure that day if it happens, but if it doesn’t, the light at the end of the tunnel is divine and well worth it.

You might need that waiting time to decide on your order. There’s around 40 types of hot dogs to choose from, many of which stretch the hot dog concept to the deeper reaches of the imagination. The Giada de Laurentiis dog, for example, features a 9-inch ‘stretch’ dog, sautéed peppers, onions and mushrooms, chopped tomato and shredded mozzarella cheese…crafted by the celeb herself! Pink’s line of burrito dogs wrap various compilations in tortillas instead of a bun. And then there’s a good ol’ fashioned bacon chili cheese dog or a 12-inch jalapeno dog, where mustard doubles as an art medium.

The menu spans far beyond hot dogs, however. No meal is complete without an order of hot fries or fresh onion rings, each of which hold that ideal balance of rich and crispy. The burgers at Pink’s are nothing short of superb—bacon chili cheeseburger…yes, please! Wash it all down with a Crush or Dr. Browns, because it always tastes better in a glass bottle. 

Seating is surprisingly vast for such an intimate space. There’s a modest indoor seating area but several patios allow guests to stretch their legs, relatively speaking. And be on the lookout, because you never know who you’re going to run into. The walls are plastered with celebrities who have crossed Pink’s off their bucket list—Jimmy Fallon, Ray Romano, Betty White, Bobby Flay and Katy Perry are just a drop in the bucket. Feel free to kick your legs up and enjoy your stay…you may need a nap after a meal like this.

For more information, visit PinksHollywood.com.

Southern Smoke: Blow-Your-Mind BBQ in Santa Clarita

Ask the typical Angelino what they know about Santa Clarita and ‘ridiculous BBQ’ likely won’t be anywhere near the list of things that come to mind. But ask anyone who’s been to Southern Smoke, and they’ll likely start to salivate at the very mention of the name. Yes, pit masters, home grillers, smoker enthusiasts and fans of all things American comfort food, you’ve got a solid reason to venture up north to get your hands on what the local community has treasured since day one.

Southern Smoke is appropriately located smack in the middle of downtown Newhall, a cute little strip that plays home to the ‘Walk of the Western Stars.’ And if John Wayne was still around, you bet he’d be a regular. A massive menu that covers all things brisket, tri-tip, ribs, sausage and chicken, each dripping with succulent flavor and made all the more better with nearly a dozen creative BBQ sauces. One of the biggest challenges is choosing which smoker-born masterpiece to focus on, and that doesn’t even account for Southern Smoke’s artful selection of burgers, sandwiches, salads, seafood dishes and even chicken ‘n’ waffles.

Let’s backtrack a second though, and talk about Southern Hospitality. Where else in L.A. are you going to find a place this good that starts you off with complimentary hush puppies and what seems like crack-infused honey butter? Oh, and if you really can’t decide what to order, they’ll bring out a complimentary meat sampler to give you a taste of four top-sellers. Does this now make it even harder to decide? Absolutely, but that’s a first-world problem most guests are happy to deal with. 

In the end, those beef ribs are hard to beat, ordered with extra Jack Daniel’s BBQ sauce that caramelizes with the heat for added sweetness. It’s a coin-toss with their two briskets, one firmer with more smoky flavor, the other juicier with decadent consistency, both served with a 5-cheese blend mac ‘n’ cheese, hearty mashed potatoes or a dozen other side options. 

If it’s burgers you’re after, Southern Smoke’s creations are as creative as they are delicious. You can’t go wrong with the bacon blue cheese, nor the Kansas City. And if you’re feeling adventurous, the PB&J may be up your alley. Yes, it’s exactly as it sounds. To go the extra mile, order just a smidge of the ‘53’ BBQ sauce…it ranks 6 million on the Scolville scale, which means it’s spiciness level borders boiling-lava hot. Wash it down with one of the many craft beers on tap, or perhaps a nice wine or soju cocktail. 

Dessert is a bonus round if you have the room. The deep-fried bread pudding is as rich as you’d imagine, served with delectable bourbon vanilla sauce and bourbon maple syrup. The monster cookie is your classic cast-iron pizookie, and the Texas canoli gets a gold star for creativity by deep-frying cheesecake wrapped in phyllo dough. 

There’s a good reason why there’s an hour-long wait at Southern Smoke most nights. Come prepared; it’s well worth-it. 

For more information, visit SouthernSmokeBBQandBrew.com